A former U.S. judge and prosecutor of Gambino crime family boss John Gotti is among a group of more than 70 ex-federal prosecutors who assailed President Donald Trump’s travel ban as indefensible.
John Gleeson, a judge in Brooklyn, New York, for 22 years and now a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, joined a roster of 73 former federal prosecutors in voicing opposition in a letter to enforcement of Trump’s executive order. It bans citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the U.S. for three months. Gleeson declined to comment on the letter.
“It would be our job, if we were representing the United States today to say, no. This executive order is wrong and should not be defended,” the lawyers wrote. Trump’s order conflicts with U.S. values and the Constitution by treating people differently “solely on account of their religion,” they said.
Acting Attorney General Attorney General Sally Yates took that position, telling her staff not to defend the order, and was fired by Trump on Monday. The White House said she was removed for “refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
Larry Krantz, who spent six years as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said in an interview that he and a group of four former government lawyers discussed the travel ban after Trump signed the Jan. 27 order. As events unfolded over the weekend and an emergency hearing was held in Brooklyn federal court on the night of Jan. 28, they asked themselves whether they could defend such an order.
“We came to the conclusion that we really couldn’t,” Krantz said. “We were convinced it appeared to be unlawful.”
With Yates’s firing, it became more urgent to write the letter, Krantz said. “We felt it was important that the public understand that a Justice Department attorney’s first obligation is to uphold the law.”
The group of lawyers also includes former federal prosecutor Alexandra Shapiro, who argued an appeal of an insider-trading case before the U.S. Supreme Court last year, and Matthew Fishbein, who served as chief assistant U.S. attorney under Mary Jo White, from 1992 to 1997.